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How Much Does Probate Cost in California?

03/27/2024 | Blog, Probate
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When a loved one passes away, navigating the probate process in California can be a daunting task. Understanding the costs involved is crucial for preparing both emotionally and financially. This blog aims to shed light on how much probate costs in California, exploring various fees, from statutory probate fees to probate attorney fees, and offering insights on how to potentially avoid probate with tools like a living trust.

Understanding California Probate Costs

The cost of probate in California is often a topic of concern for families. It’s important to know that these costs can vary, depending on the estate’s size and complexity. California’s probate system is structured so that many of the fees, especially probate attorney fees and personal representative compensations, are determined by the court and set out in the Probate Code Section 10810.

Statutory Probate Fees

Statutory probate fees in California are calculated as a percentage of the gross value of the estate assets. These fees are paid to both the probate attorney and the personal representative, following a tiered structure:

  • 4% on the first $100,000
  • 3% on the next $100,000
  • 2% on the next $800,000
  • 1% on the next $9 million
  • 0.5% on the next $15 million
  • For estates valued over $25 million, the court will determine a reasonable fee.

These percentages can significantly affect the overall cost of probate in California, particularly for larger estates.

Additional Costs

Beyond the statutory fees, several other expenses are involved in the probate process that ill answer how much does it cost to file probate in California:

  • Filing Fees: The cost to file probate in California varies by county but is generally a few hundred dollars.
  • Probate Referee Fees: Estates in California are appraised by a probate referee, who charges a fee based on a percentage of the assets appraised.
  • Bond Premiums: Personal representatives may need to post a bond, the premium for which depends on the estate’s size and the bond amount.
  • Miscellaneous Fees: These can include costs for publishing legal notices, court reporter fees, and fees for certified copies of court documents.

How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost in California?

Probate attorney fees in California are set by the probate code, mirroring the fee structure for personal representatives. However, for extraordinary services (e.g., real estate sales, litigation, tax issues), attorneys may request additional compensation, which the courts will determine based on the complexity and time required.

Can Probate Costs Be Avoided?

Many seek ways to avoid probate and its associated costs. Creating a living trust is one effective method, as it allows assets to be passed directly to beneficiaries without going through probate. Other assets, like those with designated beneficiaries (e.g., life insurance, retirement accounts) or jointly owned assets, may also bypass the probate process.


Navigating the probate process in California can be complex and costly, but understanding these expenses upfront can help families plan accordingly. Whether it’s budgeting for statutory probate fees or considering a living trust to avoid probate, being informed is your best strategy. Remember, each estate is unique, and consulting with a knowledgeable probate lawyer can provide clarity and guidance tailored to your specific situation.

At Alice A. Salvo Law, we understand the challenges that come with estate planning and probate. Our experienced team is here to help you navigate these processes efficiently and with compassion, aiming to minimize both the financial and emotional burden on your family.

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